Tru Vue Blog: An immersive week of ceramics and glass conservation
The next deadline for Tru Vue CPD Grant funding is coming up on 5th December 2017 which offers grants of up to £1,000 to mid-career conservators to support them in their professional development. Find out more on our grants page.
Looking for some inspiration of what you could use this grant for? Read on to hear from recent grantee Suzanne Reid, who reflects on her week of CPD immersed in the world of ceramics and glass conservation.
In September 2017 I was lucky enough to be able to attend two Ceramic and Glass CPD events due to the financial help of the Tru Vue CPD Grant. I attended the Icon 2 day Ceramic and Glass Conference in Oxford and the following week attended the 5 day International Academic Projects Conservation of Glass course in Cambridge.
Ceramic and Glass Conference.
Day 1 was a visit to the Ashmolean Museum and a tour of some of the ceramic and glass collections. Day 2 was a packed conference of talks which were varied, detailed and informative and ranged from stained glass encapsulation to tile conservation to radioactivity in glass. I enjoyed and learned from them all but the two that stood out for me were the talk on 3D printing and the conservation of an unfired clay artwork with polychrome decoration.
I was very interested to see and understand the application of a 3D printer in ceramic conservation and I anticipated that it would be a really useful tool for recreating a missing area from a ceramic body. It was fascinating to see working but the process of creating fills seemed to be quite slow and required quite a skill with the software. The results were impressive but it probably wasn’t currently the best solution to infilling, though I’ll be interested to see how it develops over the coming years.
The conservation of the unfired clay work talk was absorbing and looked incredibly difficult. The unfired clay, shaped into mm thin ‘playing cards’ and ‘bits of paper’ created by the still living artist Kristen Morgan, were incredibly breakable with just the slightest touch. The juxtaposition between the artist who was happy for her works to degrade and the conservator, the owner and the museum who wanted the works to be maintained in their created state was discussed and brought into the decision making process of how the pieces could and should be treated.
It also detailed the extensive research which was conducted to establish the best materials for adhering and consolidating without changing the surface finish.
Conservation of Glass Course
The course was held in the paleontology Labs at the Sedgwick Museum at Cambridge University which was an ideal venue. The tutor was Stephen Koob from the Coning Glass Museum and the course contained a mixture of lectures, practical training and visits to various Museums throughout Cambridge, including the Fitzwilliam Museum to see many example of archaeological and crizzled glass.
We started the week with a lecture on the chemistry of glass and then were each given a bag containing the very broken fragments of two glass vessels.
Our goal, using the information and techniques taught in the lessons and lectures throughout the week, was to adhere the two vessels back together and infill some of the missing areas. Although I was familiar with most the materials we were using, some of the techniques of application and use were new to me, such as using acrylic adhesives for infilling and as a consolidating material for crizzeld glass.
It was wonderful to have the opportunity to be completely immersed in the practical conservation of these two items for a whole week, learning different techniques, but it was the lectures that I felt I benefited most from. The chemistry and physics of the composition of glass and crizzling was really interesting. I was aware of glass disease but I feel I now have a significantly better understanding of the reasons, stages and processes around its occurrence and how to treat it when it does occur.
Stephen and the Coning Museum have also been doing a lot of practical research around the storage of glass which he also taught us. I will now be able apply that knowledge at the National Trust for Scotland to help to improve both storage and display of glass and will be sharing the information with colleagues and property staff.
Suzanne Reid is Conservator West for the National Trust for Scotland. Her role in the NTS is as a Consultant Conservator. She provides advice, training and support for the properties in her regions to help them care for their historic interiors and collections. Most of their collections and interiors are on open display and so they predominantly use preventive conservation to protect, monitor and control the environment around the interior.
The next round of Icon Tru Vue grant funding is now open. Round 1 closes on 5th December 2017.
To find out more please visit our grants page.
Images: Suzanne Reid ©